A Labor government will reverse the rising death toll from suicide as part of a health plan to replace pain and anxiety with a “hope for a renewed NHS”, Keir Starmer has promised .
In a speech on Monday, the Labor leader will say that his plan for reforming the NHS will focus on the biggest causes of death in the UK including suicide.
He will point to coroners’ statistics which show that deaths by suicide have increased since 2008, and reached a record high last year in England and Wales. If the party takes power Labor will reverse this increase within five years, Starmer said.
A part of his speech previewed by the party said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of young life in this country. The biggest killer. That statistic should trouble us. And the rate goes up. Our mission is to eradicate it.”
Labor has not given details of how it proposes to deliver on this promise other than a wish to move from “disease to prevention”.
But setting out his vision for the future of the health service, Starmer said it was based on “a mission to lift the anxiety, the pain, the fear that millions of families across the country face and replace it with hope for a renewed. NHS”.
Experts and campaigners gave the suicide pledge a cautious welcome, but urged any future Labor government to focus on tackling the wider causes of mental illness including poverty and inequality.
Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Focusing on the prevention of mental illness is the right approach. Mental illness in many cases can be prevented with early intervention and by dealing with root causes including inequality, racism and abuse.
“A long-term whole-of-government plan to improve outcomes for people with mental illness is urgently needed. Adults with severe mental illness are almost five times more likely to die without time than the rest of the population with two out of three deaths from preventable diseases.
Simon Blake, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, said a determined focus on promoting mental health and preventing suicide “has never been more important”.
He said: “Reducing the unacceptably high number of people who die by suicide requires strong political will and a multifaceted approach that tackles the wider factors that influence mental health such as poverty, housing, discrimination including racism, education and employment.”
Rishi Sunak is reportedly preparing to announce plans to allow patients to choose to receive treatment at private hospitals through the NHS app. The move is aimed at cutting the record 7.3 million person waiting list, according to the Times.
Starmer also promises to reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke by a quarter within 10 years. And he will say Labor will meet all cancer targets and reduce waiting lists.
He will say: “The next Labor government will deliver an NHS that is there when you need it. No turning back, no excuses. We will meet these standards again. We will restore the NHS.”
Labor remains skeptical about how it will be spent. Asked by Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday if the party was looking at raising taxes, shadow health minister Liz Kendall said: “No.”
Pressed on the issue, he added: “Even if more investment is important, what I will argue here is the reform is absolutely part of it too.”